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  • Writer's pictureMateusz Górecki

Black market

All of Iran is under prohibition. On store shelves you can find at most a can of beer(non-alcoholic, of course). Once you arrive, you quickly learn that what is haram can be circumvented, obtained, dealt with. The situation is similar with alcohol.

You can get top-quality imported alcohol on the black market without the slightest problem. The price tag? Whisky ($25 a bottle), vodka ($20). More popular, however, are homemade cha-cha(Georgian vodka), or "enriched" at home beer available in stores(here two ways- fermentation with yeast, or adding specially prepared moonshine). Ok, let's say that already your house party will be raided by the police. What now? What kind of penalties?

Your first time with alcohol? 160 lashes. Recidivism? Another 160 lashes. The third time is no longer worth the risk - thanks to the death penalty, you are unlikely to try alcohol again. The young, however, do take risks. You know, pride in your country is one thing, the desire to taste at least a piece of Western life is another.


Western music is officially banned, haram. So are satellite dishes so you can pick up the signal of some music program. The truth, however, is that upon entering an Iranian home, you can often hear music flying from... Polish stations. Viva Polska, 4 Fun TV, MTV. Satellites are on almost every house, including even government buildings. Also popular is the "Persian Music Channel," which broadcasts, using a satellite from Dubai. The sight of bikinis, Western style, limousines, and champagne pouring over half-naked women is not unusual. Persian music videos, on the other hand, are usually shot... in Los Angeles. You know the strange look of a woman taking off her chador and turning on MTV at full volume.

You're standing on a sidewalk in northern Tehran, the latest model of Porsche drives past you, with the windows down and penetrating music coming from inside.

Iran has a boundary line rule, you yourself must grasp which law you can stretch to suit your own needs at any given time.


You arrive in the deserts, the town of Mazda. You are taken from the bus by a man you met 10 minutes earlier. You go to his house. First impression- incredibly religious. At home, his wife can only address you through him, even though she is the one who speaks fluent English. The women, of course, in another room, with hijabs on their heads. Your stranger says we have to change houses, because a foreign man can't sleep under the same roof with his wife.

You leave. Fifty meters away, the same man pulls out a cigarette at a slow pace, lights it and in a sea of tobacco-laden haze announces to you that he is the "antichrist." You look at him with astonishment and disbelief. After 5 more minutes of conversation, or rather trying to read his broken English, you learn that he means "atheist." He speaks in a whisper so that neither his wife nor Allah can hear.

It is known that this is an extreme case. The mass of people do not hide their atheist beliefs. Lack of faith is quite normal, especially in young and educated people.

Here we must distinguish between two situations. A public place where it is mandatory for a woman to wear a Hijab, while a man must wear long pants and a minimal t-shirt. At home, everything changes. One walks around completely freely. Women shed their headscarves, men parade around in short shorts. An acquaintance we met in Tehran told us about a situation in which, in order to pick up a girl, he pretended to be a policeman, approached a girl he liked and, citing the Ayatollahs and the Quran, reprimanded her for, for example, a protruding strand of hair, then told her to give him her number or he would put her in jail. Extremes, it is known. A policeman of my acquaintance once pointed out that he had his t-shirt sleeve pulled up, and with an unspeakable face ordered him to "bring himself to order" immediately.

There are also symbolic places.

Such our Czestochowa, transferred to Iranian soil, the second most important place for Muslims after Mecca - Mashhad. We were there exactly on January 6, the middle of the local holidays. A day when thousands of "religious tourists" come to the city, we were able to see that there are also completely radical people in Iran in terms of religion and methods of observance.

Young people, according to various interlocutors up to 90%, are those who push religion out of their lives, often parodying and laughing at the system around them, calling the mullahs mushrooms (due to the turbans they wear).

The typical Iranian is an extremely open and sincere person. He will approach you on the street, or accost you on the subway, and ask 3 basic questions: "1. Where are you from? 2) What are you doing in Iran? 3) Is our feijab?", then he will start talking about his own views, completely trusting the interlocutor. There is a death penalty for moving away from religion and becoming an atheist, but Iranians seemingly out of spite want to demonstrate that it is possible to live in this country with views that are completely different from the mainstream government.


Society in Iran is incredibly diverse. People who think they represent a higher position, from Tehran. Incredibly open and helpful from Shiraz and Isfahan. More closed and unaccustomed to strangers in Tabasa. Detached from "Iranian reality" islanders on Qeshma.

We think we are free, but in fact many things enslave us, oppress us, limit us. Who do you think will know more about freedom, we who live in a democratic state, or a person in an oppressed society?

What Iran needs most now is freedom, but from our stereotypes.

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